News | J-Board upholds referenda results despite bylaw violations

“Perfection is not the requisite standard,” judgement reads

Last week, the SSMU Judicial Board (J-Board) upheld the Arts Undergraduate Society’s (AUS) Winter 2012 referendum results, despite the violations of three different AUS election bylaws during the referendum period.

The decision came as a result of the Bangs v. Calver and Cheng J-Board case filed by Christopher Bangs, chair of the ‘No’ Committees during the referendum, which contested the legitimacy of two questions passed during the AUS Winter 2012 Referenda. The case pursued former AUS President Jade Calver and former Elections AUS Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Victor Cheng.

The first question contested, regarding online ratification, passed with 71.7 per cent of the vote. The second question, to increase the number required to amend the AUS Constitution to a two-thirds majority, passed with 44.9 per cent of the vote.

The J-Board ruling maintains the validity of both these results, but a new question seeking to change the required quorum to change the constitution – from two-thirds to simple majority – will be presented in the upcoming Fall 2012 referendum period.

In the judgment, J-Board recognizes that the respondents Calver and Cheng “were at fault for violating the bylaws,” but J-Board also concluded that the violations were not so severe as to undermine the voting system and require the invalidation of the results.

In his petition, Bangs alleged that Cheng and Calver had violated six AUS bylaws. The J-Board ruling concluded that three had been violated.

The first bylaw ruled to have been violated refers to questions being ratified only in English despite a requirement for ratification in both English and French.

“The purpose of [the article in question] is to therefore preclude the possibility of there being an English and French question on the referendum, which claim to express the same thing, but in fact have two different meanings,” reads the judgment.

The judgment also refers to two other violations: that five days were provided for campaigning instead of the required six, and that Elections AUS failed to announce the referendum in student publications.

Despite these violations, J-Board concluded that, taken together, they were not a cause for the invalidation of the referendum. In making this decision, J-Board claimed, “the reasonable voter had an adequate chance to participate in the voting process, being fully informed of the questions at hand.”

“The Board agrees that procedural perfection has not been achieved, though perfection is not the requisite standard,” the judgment reads. “The Respondents, faced with impending exam periods and the end of the [sic] refrained from exercising their discretion to invalidate the referendum, since the few violations that had occurred were not sufficiently significant to have an adverse effect on the integrity of the referendum.”

In an email to The Daily and other student publications, Bangs wrote, “I was very sorry to see this decision from the Judicial Board, even more so because of the many factual errors evident in the reasoning.”

Among these errors, according to Bangs, was J-Board’s statement that none of the parties challenged Elections AUS’ decision to have a five-day campaign period at the time it was decided. J-Board concluded that Elections AUS had not been informed of the violation until April 17, after the referendum was over. Bangs, however, stated that he had “brought up the campaign period with the CRO after [he] became aware of this issue, and [the CRO] did not respond.”

J-Board also concluded that the minimum statutory period of 21 days between ratification of questions and referendum was not violated. “Consequently, between March 9, 2012 and April 9, 2012, 28 days elapsed satisfying the period,” the decision read.

Bangs, however, claimed that the questions were ratified on March 21, not March 9. “Similar motions were passed on March 9, but the two questions being considered were amended on the 21st when they were submitted to the CRO,” wrote Bangs.

Despite upholding the question to increase the majority required to amend the AUS Constitution, the mover of this question, AUS VP Internal Justin Fletcher, told The Daily he would be submitting a new referendum question.

“Last year during the referendum period I submitted a question to change the process of amending the Constitution from a plurality to a two-thirds super majority,” said Fletcher.

“I thought we should have a high barrier…because constitutions shouldn’t be so easy to amend. But there is a significant portion of students that vote ‘no opinion’ so I cited that instead of making it two-thirds to amend the Constitution, it should be a simple majority of 50 per cent…it’s like a middle ground,” he said.

The Daily did not receive a response from J-Board before press time. Calver declined to comment.